Ken MacKenzie is originally from Canada but graduated from Yale and played for the Elis under Ethan Allen. Now a resident of the CT shoreline, Ken spoke with me today about his baseball journey.
Ken was a major leaguer from 1960 to 1965, and played in the minors 1957-61 and 1964-65.
With the 1964 Giants, he rostered with Cepeda, McCovey, Mays, Alou, Marichal and Gaylord Perry.
With the ’63 Cards, he teamed with Flood, Groat, White, Boyer, McCarver, Gibson and Stan The Man.
Ken’s baseball travels were indeed star crossed.
Ken, a lefty reliever, pitched in 42 games for the 1962 Mets, a team to which he was sold by the Braves’ John McHale. That sale kept a promise McHale had made to Ken in 1961 when he sent MacKenzie down (Milwaukee to Louisville) to make room for 20-year-old Joe Torre, who would finish 2nd in the 1961 ROY voting. Del Crandall had gotten injured and McHale saw young Torre as a better option than the other catcher – Charlie Lau. Star crossed.
Ken said he was the first player purchased by the 1962 Mets after the infamous expansion draft that saddled the Mets and Colt .45’s with insufficient talent. Ken had a couple of other firsts. He was the first Atlanta Cracker rookie to last an entire season. He was also the first Yale graduate since Dick Tettlebach to make it to the majors.
Ken thinks the Milwaukee Braves of the late 50’s through early 60’s were a terrific team until Charlie Dressen ruined them.
His favorite catcher of all time is teammate Del Crandall (179 HR, 8x AS, 4x GG). Crandall used a spiffy L-5 Louisville Slugger, a favorite of Ken’s, slim of handle and made of better wood. Ken said Crandall was overshadowed by the batting abilities of his teammates but was a large key to the club.
Among Ken’s many memories is the sight of seeing Connecticut’s Steve Dalkowski pack the ballpark at a spring training game in Miami. Everyone wanted to see how hard he threw.
He recalls meeting Smoky Joe Wood, who lived a short distance from Yale Field, at Yale baseball team practices several times. He remembers fishing on Hammonassett Beach with Smoky Joe’s son, Joe, Jr..
Ken thinks there are big differences between the game that was played 50 years ago and the article of baseball we see today. These include the prevalence of Tommy John surgery, injuries that are due to adding muscle, player indifference to world series checks that pale in comparison to salaries, and a selfishness that manifests itself in always trying to hit a HR instead of laying down a bunt to advance a teammate.
I hope you can join us at Quinnipiac tomorrow, Feb. 27, when former big leaguers Ron Diorio and Ken MacKenzie will participate in a player panel.